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Tribes of the Unwashed
Guy Edwards on Tribes of the Unwashed

Skaha is a gem in the crown of BC rock rock climbing. Over 650 routes on some outstanding edgy gneiss in the warm Okanagan Valley. Sport climbing predominates, although there are a number of fine gear routes as well. The Skaha Bluffs are a series of north-south canyons with cliffs of up to 80 metres on either side, providing some shady respite from the summer heat of the Okanagan. The edgy, featured nature of the rock has resulted in vertical walls with the potential for routes almost anywhere.

Location

The Skaha Bluffs are located on a series of cliffs on the east side of the Okanagan Valley, just outside of Penticton. Although the climbs are on crown land, there is no public access or parking, which has led to some issues over the past few years. Currently, one of the local farms has provided a (pay) parking lot, and access.

The only access to the Bluffs is from the Braeside Parking lot at the end of Valleyview Road. From South Main street in Penticton, turn east onto Crescent Hill road (at the north end of Skaha Lake), then turn south onto Valleyview road at the top of the hill. Follow this road to the very end (it gets very narrow and windy), until you reach the parking lot, marked by a sign and message board. The parking lot costs $5 per day (a small price for the fine climbing at the bluffs). From the lot, a trail heads east along the fence to the bluffs.

Et Tu Brutus
Et Tu Brutus on the Fortress

Weather view weather charts

The Okanagan is generally much drier than Squamish, though colder in the winter, and in the spring it is common to get a few showers. In the summer, the temperatures often rise to 35C or higher, so chasing the shade can become an important part of climbing at Skaha. Luckily most of the cliffs face east or west, so it is usually easy to find some respite from the blazing sun. If it does get too hot, just you can always go to the beach for the hottest part of the day and hit the crags in the late afternoon, or if you think youíre a mountaineer, try for an alpine start.

Even if it does rain at Skaha, most of the showers are short lived, and it is often possible to climb on the steeper walls (Doctor's Wall and The Wave) in any weather.

 

 

Rattlesnake
Rattlesnake near Red Tail Wall

Environmental Considerations

The Skaha Bluffs are located in a relatively fragile ecosystem. As many as a third of the endangered species in BC live in the Okanagan Valley. Please observe the following to help preserve this environment:

  • Do not disturb any animals in the Bluffs. This includes snakes! During the summer, rattlesnakes are incredibly docile creatures. Leave them alone and they will not bother you.
  • Do not bring dogs to the bluffs, as they can be a major disturbance to the local wildlife.
  • Stay on existing trails. The fragile grass cover at the bluffs is easily destroyed leading to severe erosion problems.
Death By Sex, Red Tail Wall
Pulling the initial roof of Death By Sex, Red Tail Wall

The Climbing

The climbs at Skaha are on some magnificent gneiss, a form of metamorphosed granite, much edgier and more featured than gray rock found along the coast, and generally more solid than the limestone found in the Rockies (though some areas are a bit chossy). Most of the climbs are near vertical and in the 5.8 to 5.12 range. The large number of easy climbs, many of which are well protected sport or mixed routes, make Skaha a great place to learn to climb and learn to lead. Despite the abundance of well protected sport routes, I find that the crack and gear climbs tend to offer more varied and interesting climbing than the bolted faces

The list below details some of the more popular cliffs at Skaha:
The Fortress
The first cliff on the approach trail. About 40 outstanding climbs, both sport and gear, up to 3 pitches in length, mostly in the 5.10 to 5.11 range. Receives shade on hot summer afternoons.
Red-Tail Wall
Lots of sport routes, mostly in the 5.8 to 5.10 range, though the upper wall boasts a number of 5.11ís in a fine exposed situation. Also shady in the afternoon. Crowded

The Great White Wall
A formidable 40 metre wall of white rock with about 20 routes, mainly in the 5.11 and 5.12 range, complemented by some fantastic 5.10 gear routes. Receives shade in the morning
The Doctor's Wall
This consistently overhanging wall sports some of the most difficult routes at Skaha. A fine combination of 5.11 and 5.12 sport routes complemented by some excellent 5.10 cracks.



Rule

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